NATO defense ministers favor missile shield talks with Russia
BRUSSELS, June 15 (RIA Novosti) - Defense ministers of 26 NATO member states have spoken out for continuing consultations with Russia on plans to deploy U.S. missile defense elements in Central Europe.
The North Atlantic Council met at a Defense Ministers' session on 14-15 June 2007 to review NATO's current operations and missions, and defense aspects of the Alliance's transformation and partnerships, it said in a final communique.
"We reaffirm our readiness to continue consultations with the Russian Federation in the framework of the NATO-Russia Council as a way of ensuring transparency, and exploring possibilities for cooperation on wider missile defense issues, while continuing to pursue our ongoing interoperability work in the area of theatre missile defense," it said.
The document stressed that the NATO-Russia partnership "remains a strategic element in fostering security in the Euro-Atlantic area."
"We call on Russia to work with us in a spirit of cooperation to strengthen our partnership and deliver its full potential," it said.
The ministers welcomed Russia's recent ratification of the Partnership for Peace Status of Forces Agreement, "which will significantly enhance the potential for Russia and the Allies to pursue concrete forms of defense cooperation, such as joint military training and exercises, and the development of the interoperability of our armed forces."
They said they value Russia's contributions to Operation Active Endeavour and the ongoing cooperation in counter-narcotics training of Afghan and Central Asian personnel.
The ministers also said they looked forward to events later this month to mark the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Founding Act, and the fifth anniversary of the NATO-Russia Council.
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